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sm_donna2008.jpgAdults in conversation with children will often resort to this fail-safe question to make a connection with a child. Children usually have a quick and ready answer: An astronaut! A fireman! A pilot! A teacher! And so on. They call out their favorites without restraints, without hesitation. They see it and they believe it.
Can you remember longing for the grown-up day when you would magically become who and what you dreamed to be? For some people, things turned out exactly as believed; for others a new, different, and often surprising path was followed.
Whatever your path has been to now, do you find yourself coming full circle lamenting, "I don't know what I want to be when I grow up!"? You are not alone. In my work as a coach, I hear it often. I've been in that place myself.
Read this and other posts at Donna's LearningLife expert blog, Thresholds...

Tips and tricks for getting started on Facebook, LinkedIn, and more....SclNtwrkLgs.gif

In the last couple of years, social networking Web sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter have become almost as ubiquitous an accessory as a cell phone or a computer. A sizeable proportion of Gen X and Millenials have a page (or two or three)--some estimates say nearly 90 percent of college students maintain at least one page--but what about baby boomers? Is social networking "just for kids," or are people over 40 adopting the technology as well?

A recent report from Forrester Research indicates that baby boomers are more technically savvy than might be popularly believed. According to the study, more than 60 percent of boomers are using social media like blogs, forums, podcasts, and online videos. And one-third of adult Internet users have a profile on a social networking site, up from 8 percent in 2005 (according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project).

Sometimes, it seems that everyone, from individuals still in the corporate world to retired grandparents, is going online. Heck, even nonagenarian actor and academy award winner Kirk Douglas has his own MySpace page to keep in touch with fans and family alike. (He's a Sagittarius, by the way.)

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Imagine an epidemic that kills more than 300,000 Americans a year. A disease that affects more than 65 percent of the population, and whose incidence among children has tripled in the last three decades. One in which the health-related complications are greater than those of poverty, smoking, and alcoholism, and indirect costs include everything from rising insurance rates and lost work hours to a bump in airfare prices.

It isn't cancer or HIV; it's obesity. And it's a problem that is so multifaceted, with so many contributing factors, that some people have likened it to the crisis in the Middle East in terms of complexity of causes and possible solutions.

"The issue of obesity in our society is one of tremendous complexity," says Dr. Allen Levine. "There is a network of complicated forces interacting, and it's difficult to say any one of them is the root 'cause.' Biology, psychology, society, the government...they all play a role. It isn't as simple as 'nature or nurture.'"

Freedman3.JPGAs millions of American workers approach the traditional "retirement age," what's ahead for those people and for the larger American economy? Best-selling author and social entrepreneur Marc Freedman shared his thoughts with Living a LearningLife staff ahead of his appearance at this Saturday's "Encore!" Fest.

The founder and CEO of Civic Ventures, and author of Encore: Finding Work That Matters in the Second Half of Life, Freedman was described by The New York Times earlier this year as "the voice of aging baby boomers who are eschewing retirement," while The Wall Street Journal stated in 2007: "In the past decade, Mr. Freedman has emerged as a leading voice in discussions nationwide about the changing face of retirement."

sm_donna2008.jpgAs a new year gets underway, many of us find ourselves making resolutions or vowing to "finally make that lifestyle or career change" we've been thinking about. It's a time of reflection, and of planning for the future.

Now, for those who want to plan their next career or re-evaluate their life path, LearningLife is offering life skills workshops that offer ways to get inspired, think about the future, and strategically plan out a blueprint for true life change. One upcoming workshop, Your Next Chapter: Exploring Life/Work Options, will be led by career consultant Donna Bennett.

Designed to help people think about their future and make meaningful decisions about their next steps in life, the workshop was initially intended for older adults considering an encore career. But now, however, when the job market and economy are tight, it is especially applicable to anyone who is looking to make a change in their lives.

AndyGilats2.jpgMy own aging, along with that of my parents, siblings, and friends, has challenged me to become a student of what experts are calling "healthy aging." Using myself as both lab rat and lab attendant, I've been browsing, digging, reading, listening, and reacting. I've also been toning my triceps, filling up on fiber, ohm-ing at yoga, and banging the strings around my fingers against my head, asking, where has all the gray matter gone?

So what am I learning? Here's my personal short course:

Healthy aging isn't just about living a long life (though that's part of it). It's about living in good health as long as possible. Let's face it: if we're sick, disabled, or depressed in old age, we may not want a long life.

Healthy aging can be summed up with two interchangeable phrases - being well and well-being. Being well means we are healthy in mind, body, and spirit. Well-being means that these three are integrated and in balance.

Elementary, right? But how, exactly, do we stay or become well? How do we sustain or regain our well-being?

rick_150x225.jpg"Aging isn't an imagined concept," says Harry R. Moody. "There's undeniably a component of it that involves a physical slowing down, a decline. However, aging doesn't have to be all gloom and doom."

Moody, the director for academic affairs at AARP, is also a nationally recognized speaker on the topic of conscious aging. He'll be speaking about Later Life Creativity at the Positive Aging Conference, a national conference that will be held November 12 at the U of M.

Says Moody, "When you ask people what they should be concerned about as they age, you'll hear things like good health, being productive, etc. And those are good things--but they are mainly holdovers from things we were concerned about in youth and midlife.